Provenance Research Project

The history of ownership and collecting is intimately connected with the history of art and is taken especially seriously by museums based upon private collections, such as the Clark. Since the inception of the Institute in 1955, the curatorial staff has compiled a wealth of information not only on the collecting interests of Sterling and Francine Clark, but also on the history of ownership, or provenance, of the works they acquired. This research has continued over the years as the Institute’s collection has expanded. It is available to the public and speaks to a range of issues related to the art market, patronage, and the history of taste over many generations. In addition to publishing catalogues of the collection that include provenance, exhibition history, bibliography, and other information, as well as granting access to available documentation/curatorial files, the Clark provides regularly updated online information on its collection.

Following recommendations of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the U.S. State Department Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA), the Clark has, since 1999, taken steps to identify any objects in its collection that might be subject to potential claims that they were confiscated from their rightful owners by Nazis from 1933 to 1945.

The Clark has focused its provenance examination on paintings purchased by Sterling and Francine Clark, the Institute, and other Institute donors from 1933 to the present, with special emphasis on those paintings that might have changed ownership between 1933 and 1945. Researchers continue to gather all available provenance information on the Clark's collection, including European paintings. Every object in the Clark’s collection is listed in the collection database, with information, including provenance, reflecting the current state of research. While the history of any work at any period can therefore be searched, the Clark will identify all works in the collection that were created before 1945, transferred after 1932 and before 1946, and were or could have been in continental Europe between those dates. The provenance of these works can be found via the link  “Listed Works.” The Clark will continue to update this information in a timely manner as research continues. 


Researching the provenance of an object is a difficult and sometimes impossible task. Many records of ownership no longer exist. In the twentieth century, a period of great upheaval, many important archives were destroyed either by natural or man-made disasters, such as war. In past centuries, works of art often changed hands without documentation. In addition, dealers often withhold provenance information when their clients request confidentiality. Subsequently, gaps in the ownership history of an art object are not uncommon and can occur in any era. A gap in the provenance of a particular work during the Nazi era does not necessarily mean that it was implicated in an illicit transfer, but it does necessitate further research that may or may not succeed in filling the gap. Works whose ownership can be fully and legitimately documented during the Nazi era can be cleared of suspicion. Even so, the names and provenances of those objects in Europe during the Nazi era will still be disclosed in compliance with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States.

Works with gaps in their provenances between 1933 and 1945 are the subject of further research. If names of some owners are known during this period, they are carefully checked against the World Jewish Congress’s Commission for Art Recovery “Provisional List of Names Mentioned in Relation to Art Looting During the Holocaust Era.” This list includes the names of collectors and dealers who were victimized by the Nazis, as well as Nazi agents involved in looting and dealers who facilitated exchanges of illegally acquired works. If a “red flag” name appears in the provenance of a work in the Clark’s collection between the years 1932 and 1946, additional information is provided in footnote form. The Clark has taken the additional step of checking these objects against the United States Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit’s Consolidated Interrogation Report (1946) and against claims filed with the Art Loss Register, of which the Clark is a member.

Sterling Clark purchased art from a number of Parisian galleries during the World War II era, several of which are mentioned on the World Jewish Congress’s provisional list of red flag names. Knoedler and Company, Durand-Ruel, and Neuville & Vivien are identified for selling artwork to Germany during this period, a claim substantiated by evidence from the Schenker documents. It is unclear whether the works these galleries shipped to Germany were illegally acquired. The galleries’ involvement with German clients does not necessarily implicate any Clark paintings in an illicit transfer. Where there is cause for concern, additional information will be provided in footnote form to the provenance section of the work in question.

The Clark continues to update online information as research continues. In addition, the Clark has taken the following steps to assure that any potential claims of ownership will be properly addressed, consistent with both AAM and AAMD guidelines:

1. As part of the standard research on any future gift, bequest, or purchase of a work of art, the Clark will continue to ask donors or sellers for evidence of valid title and for as much provenance information as possible with regard to the Nazi/World War II era. If this provenance is incomplete, the Institute will search appropriate databases of unlawfully confiscated art. If there is evidence of unlawful confiscation without appropriate restitution, the Institute will/shall not acquire the object. The Clark will document its findings and notify the donor, estate executor, or dealer of the nature of the evidence.

2. In keeping with current museum practice, the Clark will publish, exhibit, and otherwise make known all recent and future gifts, bequests, and purchases, thereby making them available for further research and study. All acquisitions are regularly included in the Clark's published annual reports.

3. The Clark will facilitate access to the Nazi/World War II era provenance of all works of art in its collection by continuing its ”open-door“ policy of access to its curatorial files and by supplying object information, including provenance, on its website.

4. In preparing for exhibitions, the Clark will review provenance for all incoming loans and will not borrow works of art known to have been illegally confiscated during the Nazi/World War II era and not restituted. The Clark will document its findings and inform the lender of the nature of the evidence.

5. In the event that a legitimate claimant should come forward, the Clark will work to resolve the matter in an equitable, appropriate, and mutually agreeable manner.

6. The Clark will cooperate in any third party effort to create databases of claims and claimants, confiscated works of art, and works of art later restituted. 


The provenance of a work of art in the Clark collection is listed in chronological order, beginning with the first known owner. How and when a work entered or left an owner’s collection may be included in parentheses following the owner's name. Brackets are placed around the names of dealers, and footnotes are used to document and/or clarify information. 


The following bibliography contains selected documents, monographs, archival materials, and electronic resources useful for tracing the ownership and movement of art objects over time, with particular emphasis on the World War II era. All are available in the Clark library; some are also freely available via the internet.

For a complete online guide to Nazi Era Provenance research, please visit our library guide
Methods of Provenance Research
Pearson, David.  Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook.  London:  The British Library, 1994.
Stacks  NE900 P43
Yeide, Nancy H.  The AAM Guide to Provenance Research.  Washington, D.C.:  American Association of Museums, 2001.
Reference  N9160 Y45
Vitalizing Memory:  International Perspectives on Provenance Research.   Washington, D.C.:  American Association of Museums, 2005.
Stacks   N9160 V58 2004  
Selected General Studies
Akinsha, Konstantin.  Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe’s Art Treasures.  New York:  Random House, 1995.
Stacks  N9160 A33
Alford, Kenneth D.  Hermann Göring and the Nazi Art Collection: The Looting of Europe’s Art Treasures and Their Dispersal after World War II.  Jefferson, NC :  McFarland & Company, 2012.
Stacks  N9160 A547
Bruckler, Theodor.  Kunstraub, Kunstbergung und Restitution in Österreich, 1938 bis Heute.  Wien:  Böhlau, 1999.
Stacks  N9165 A88 B78
Farmer, Walter I.  The Safekeepers: A Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II.  Berlin:  W. de Gruyter, 2000.
Stacks  N9165 G4 F37
Feliciano, Hector.  The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World’s Greatest Works of Art.  New York:  Basic Books, 1997.
Stacks  N9174 F45 E
Kowalski, Wojciech.  Art Treasures and War: A Study on the Restitution of Looted Cultural Property, Pursuant to Public International Law.  Leicester, UK:  Institute of Art and Law, 1998.
N9160 K68
Müller, Melissa.  Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice.  New York:  Vendome Press, c2010.
Stacks  N9160 M855 E
Nicholas, Lynn H.  The Rape of Europa:  The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.  New York:  Knopf, 1994.
Stacks  N9160 N53
Petropoulos, Jonathan.  Art as Politics in the Third Reich.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Stacks N8727 P47
-----.  The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2000.
Stacks  N9165 G4 P4
Simpson, Elizabeth.  The Spoils of War: World War II and its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property.  New York:  Abrams, 1997.
Stacks  N9160 S66 1995
Finding Additional Titles in the Clark Library
Locate other titles in the Clark library by doing a KEYWORD search in the library catalog for any of the following subject terms.  Enclose phrases in quotation marks.   (Example:  “art thefts”)
Art thefts
War and art
Art treasures in war
World War, 19391945 — Art and the war
Finding Additional Material through Bibliographies
Extensive, annotated bibliographies of books and journal and newspaper literature can be found on The National Archives and Record Administration’s Holocaust-Era Assets Bibliography section. Check the sidebar for links to many other valuable resources as well.
Records of Lost Works
The resources listed below provide photographs and other documentation on works of art reported missing or stolen from public and private collections during World War II.
The central registry of information on cultural property looted 1933–45. In addition to many useful links and breaking news of cases involving looted art, LootedArt contains two databases:
·         The Information Database contains information and documentation from forty-nine countries, including laws and policies, reports and publications, archival records and resources, current cases and relevant websites.
·         The Object Database contains details of more than 25,000 objects of all kinds – paintings, drawings, antiquities, Judaica, etc. – looted, missing, and/or identified from more than fifteen countries.
Committee on the Preservation and Restitution of Works of Art, Archives and Other Material in Enemy Hands. Works of Art in Austria (British zone of occupation): Losses and Survivals in the War.  London:  H. M. Stationery Office, 1946.
Stacks  N9165 A88 G7
Office de récupération économique.  Répertoire d'Oeuvres d'Art Dont la Belgique a été Spoliée Durant la Guerre 19391945. Brussels:  Royaume de Belgique, 1948.
Stacks  N9165 B4 B4
Missing Art Works of Belgium.  Bruxelles:  Ministère des affaires économiques, 1994.
Stacks  N9165 B4 B3
Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre, 19391945… List of property removed from France during the war 19391945. Tome II: Tableaus, tapisseries et sculptures.  Berlin:  Impr. Nationale, 1947.
Rare Book Room N9165 F7 G4  
Click here for the online version.
Schloss Collection, Non-Restituted Works Looted 1943–1998.
Published by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this website lists more than one hundred works still missing from the collection of Adolphe Schloss as of July 1, 1997. Includes images, descriptive information, and cross-references to Répertoire de Biens Spoliés.
Bernhard, Marianne. Verlorene Werke der Malerei in Deutschland in der Zeit von 1939 bis 1945: Zerstörte und Verschollene Gemälde aus Museen und Galerien.  Munich:  Ackermanns, 1965.
Stacks  N9165 G4 B47
Laszlo Mravik. The ‘Sacco di Budapest’ and Depredation of Hungary, 19381949: Works of Art Missing from Hungary as a Result of the Second World War.  Budapest:  Hungarian National Gallery, 1998.
Stacks  N9165 H8 M73
Works of Art in Italy: Losses and Survivals in the War. Compiled from War Office Reports by the British Committee on the Preservation and Restitution of Works of Art, Archives, and Other Material in Enemy Hands. London:  H. M. Stationery Office, 1945–46.
Stacks  N9165 I8 G7
Morozzi, Luisa. Treasures Untraced: An Inventory of the Italian Art Treasures Lost during the Second World War.  Rome:  Instituto poligrafico e zecca dello stato, 1995.
Stacks  N9165 I8 063 E
Venema, Adriaan.  Kunsthandel in Nederland, 19401945. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 1986.
Stacks  N8620 V46
Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen Koenigs Collection.  Missing Old Master Drawings from the Franz Koenigs Collection Claimed by the State of The Netherlands. The Hague:  Netherlands Office for Fine Arts, 1989.
Stacks  N2505 A9 K6 1989
Marks of Ownership
Physical evidence of past owners—such as stamps, inscriptions and bookplates—are important clues in piecing together a picture of ownership and descent over time. The sources listed below may be helpful for identifying and deciphering known collectors’ marks.
Fagan, Louis. Collectors’ Marks.  Arranged and edited by Milton I.D. Einstein and Max A. Goldstein.   St. Louis:  The Laryngoscope Press, 1918.
Stacks  N5200 A1 F3
Lugt, Frits.  Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes: marques estampillées et écrites des collections particulières et publiques, marques de marchands, de monteurs et d'imprimeurs, cachets de vente d'artistes décédés, marques de graveurs apposées après le tirage des planches, timbres d'édition, etc.  La Haye:  M. Nijhoff, 1956.
Reference  N5200 A1 L8 Repr
Ricci, Seymour de.   English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts (15301930) and Their Marks of Ownership. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1930.
Stacks  NE900 R53
Auction Sales Indexes and Auction Catalogues
The Clark library has a strong collection of auction catalogues, shelved under the call number N8660 and organized by auction house and then by sale date. Catalogues in the library’s offsite storage facility can be requested by contacting the library two days in advance of a visit.
Search the library online catalog to find a specific catalog by title, sale date, or sale code. The indexes below (some electronic and some print) can be used to search for artists and works of art.
Recent and Current Sales
Auction sales database covering sales results from major auction houses worldwide (especially North America and Europe) from 1985 to the present. Searchable only by the artist’s name. Includes color images of many works.
Electronic resource, available on site only
Database of auction sale results, from about 1995 to the present, for antiques and collectible objects; includes some coverage of fine arts.  Includes color images of many works. Unlike ArtNet, this database can be searched without knowing an artist’s name. 
Electronic resource, available on site only
Gordon’s Print Price Online
Online database of Gordon’'s Print Price Annual (see below). Covers international auction sales records of print sales from 1985 to the present. 
Electronic resource, available on site only
Gordon’s Print Price Annual.  Phoenix:  Gordon’s Art Reference, 1978–.
Annual record of prints sold at the most important European and American auction houses during the year.  Sale information includes auction house, sale date, lot number, price in local currency, and price in U.S. dollars.  For sales after 1985 see the online database above.
Offsite Storage, Stacks  N8645 G67 2004  (Library has 19781991, 1993present. 19781985 is in the Stacks.)
Twentieth-century sales
Annuaire général des ventes publiques en France. Paris: Editions Art et Technique, 19421943. Volume 2 has a supplement: Les ventes en Belgique.
Stacks  N8640 A54  (Library has 19411943)
Art-Price Annual.  London:  Art and Technology, 1948/19–1979.
Kunstpreis Jahrbuch.  Munchen:  Kunst und Technik, 1980–.
Title varies. One of the most comprehensive current listings of sales from auction houses in Europe, the United States, and other countries. Valuable source for its coverage of decorative arts and its detailed categorization of objects, including icons, medals, photographs, glass, porcelain, silver, jewelry, Judaica, metalware, clocks and watches, instruments, Asian and Islamic art, arms, and armor. 
Stacks  N8640 A74  (Library has 53/54-66/67.)
Art Prices Current: A Record of Sale Prices at the Principal London, Continental, and American Auction Rooms…with Indexes to the Artists, Engravers, and Collectors.  London:  Dawson, 1907/08–1915/16; new series 1921/22–1972/73.
In two parts: A. paintings, drawings, miniatures; B. engravings and prints. Arranged chronologically by sale dates. Indexes of pictures, drawings, miniatures, engravings, and collections. “Authorities referred to in text” included in each volume.
Stacks  N8640 A76  (Library has 19071915, n.s. 19211972; some volumes missing.)
World Collectors Annuary.   Voorburg: World Collectors, 1950–.
Checklist of paintings, watercolors, gouaches, pastels and drawings, and (beginning with 1996/97) modern sculpture sold at auction for the year. Listed in alphabetical order by author’s name. List of the recorded auction houses  begins each volume.
Stacks  N8640 W67  (Library has 19461996/97)
Historical sales
Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century (mostly old master and early English pictures).  Algernon Graves.  London:  Graves, 1918–1921.
Alphabetical by artist.  For each work, gives date of sale, auctioneer, owner, lot number, title, and purchaser.
Stacks  N8640 G73 (3 vols.)
Fredericksen, Burton B.  Corpus of Paintings Sold in the Netherlands during the Nineteenth Century. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Information Institute, 1998.
Reference  N8640 C67
 ---. The Index of Paintings Sold in the British Isles during the Nineteenth Century. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 1988-1996.
Reference  N8640 I53
Finding auction sales catalogs
Art Sales Catalogues Online
Full-text database of art sales catalogues for major American and European auction houses, published from 1600 to 1900. Catalogues can be searched by Lugt number, date, place of sale, provenance, content, auction house, and existing copies.   
Electronic resource, available on site only
Getty Provenance Index Databases
The Getty Provenance Index® Databases, part of the Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance (PSCP) at the Getty Research Institute, contain indexed transcriptions of material from auction catalogs and archival inventories of western European works of art, and nearly 1,000,000 records that cover the period from the late 16th century to the early 20th century. The website also includes materials on provenance research resources and on Holocaust-era research resources.
Internet resource
Scipio: Art and Rare Book Sales Catalogues
Online union catalog of auction catalogues held by the Clark Art Institute and other research libraries in the United States and Canada. Searchable by date of sale, auction house, and catalogue title, as well as by collector’s name.
Electronic resource, available on site only
Archival Collections, Dealers’ and Gallery Records
Archives of American Art.  Guide to Commercial Art Gallery Records.
Many of these collections contain financial records, correspondence, and photographic documentation of objects acquired and sold in the twentieth century. Microfilm of these records can be requested through Interlibrary Loan.
Getty Research Institute.   Nazi-Era Research Assets.
A guide to archives at the Getty Research Institute that bear on Holocaust-era looting and postwar dissemination of stolen art.
The National Archives and Record Administration.  International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property Portal
Links researchers to archival materials consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era. These records, which are in many different languages, include Nazi documentation, governmental records from 1933 onwards, inventories of recovered artworks, post-war claims records, and auction house and art dealer records.
Related online resources
Any of these resources will lead to many more, collectively providing a wealth of information on lost and missing works of art, art recovery projects, documentation of lost and missing art, art restitution projects, and much more.
Art Loss Register
The world's largest private database of stolen and missing works of art and antiques. Includes numerous records for works looted from public and private collections between 1933 and 1945.
The Commission for Art Recovery
A project of the World Jewish Congress dedicated to reuniting works of art looted by the Nazis with their rightful owners or heirs.
The Documentation Project
The Project for the Documentation of Wartime Cultural Loses, based at Loyola University, compiles digitized copies of important documents relating to the theft and recovery of cultural property.
European Commission on Looted Art (ECLA)
The commission responsible for all matters relating to Nazi looted art and other cultural property in Europe. Assists families, communities, and institutions with the research, identification, and recovery of looted cultural property.
Lost Art Internet Database
A project of the Federal Government of Germany and the federal states of Germany for registering cultural assets that were relocated, transported and, especially with regard to Jewish citizens, confiscated as a result of their persecution during World War II and the Nazi period.
Musées nationaux recuperation
A searchable catalog of 2,000 unclaimed works of art recovered after World War II and held in the care of the National Museums of France.